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Pantone Got It Wrong: *This* Magical Hue Is Actually the Color of the Year (+ It Could Be The Missing Piece In Your Color Palette)

Move over 2023 Pantone Color of the Year, because I’ve got something better for you EHDers. A color so rich and with so much depth that it *literally* can save nearly any color palette that feels incomplete. “Wait…remind me what the Pantone Color of the Year is, Arlyn,” you may be mentally prompting me. Ah yes, I, too, had to look it up because frankly, Viva Magenta (the actual COTY) isn’t that memorable. 

Presenting…Arlyn’s Color of the Year: Mulberry. Or if we want to get fancy with it, Ebullient Mulberry…Merry Mulberry…Cozy Mulb…let’s just keep things simple, shall we, because I’m not good at the color naming game. It’s like a raspberry and a blackberry had a berry baby; or more simply, it’s just the color of an actual mulberry fruit, but I don’t know about yours, but my supermarket doesn’t make those readily available so it’s hard to imagine. 

If we take a look at mulberry next to the official COTY, sure, it’s not *that* different from Viva Magenta. Except for a color nerd like me, it is. It’s like mayonnaise and Miracle Whip. Long-grain rice and riced cauliflower. Whitney Houston vs. someone singing a cover of Whitney Houston. Close but absolutely no cigar. If you were hoping to bite into a mulberry pie and it ended up being cranberry, your mouth would be surprised at the tartness. Similar in theory, sure, but far from the same thing. It’s hard to replicate the jammy goodness of authentic mulberry.

Color nuance is hugely important. Alter the undertone of a shade just slightly, and it completely changes the vibe. For example, a green with blue undertones is soothing, quiet, and sleepy while a green with yellow undertones is lively, verdant, and energized. Energized does not equal quiet. 

So, why do I think mulberry is actually the sleeper hit of the design world currently, and how can you make it work in your own home? Let’s get into it.

The Velvet of the Color World

This post actually started with me culling together 10 color palettes that were a bit unexpected for anyone tired of the same ol’, same ol’. While I was writing, though, I noticed something that hadn’t been super obvious to me at first. As I took a break and sat on the stoop of my front porch, bubble wand in hand to entertain my toddler, I grabbed my phone and sent Jess a nearly out-of-breath voice note. “Mulberry! It’s always been Mulberry!” was a summary of my thoughts. There it was, in nearly every photo I had plucked from the internet, from different designers, from different countries. 

It worked with blue, it melded with orange and red, it danced with yellow and green and aqua. Mulberry seemed to add a je ne sais quoi to each room that made them all feel well-rounded, rooted, and not too precise. The color is just red enough to balance warm shades, but just purple enough to be a surprising partner to cooler, analogous tones. It has just enough black to bring down a room that’s overly sweet, and punchy enough to shake up anything too neutral or monochrome. Honestly, it’s a finishing touch secret weapon and I can’t believe I’m only just becoming aware of it. The next part of my design life can begin now, armed with the powerful sangria-esque hue. 

To me, mulberry adds the same necessary richness to a room that a mahogany or walnut vintage wood piece brings or even a bit of velvet. It’s all about visual balance and subtle complexity and depth. It’s the kind of color that touches your soul in an almost nostalgic way, reminiscent of popsicle-stained tongues from childhood on a hot summer afternoon. 

I may have abandoned my initial concept I pitched to Jess, but I didn’t jilt all the beautiful photos I was going to use as examples. Just a slight pivot, so I can walk you through how mulberry works in rooms of all different styles and colors. 

Let’s See Mulberry in Action

photo by fanny radvik | design by inuti design | styled by linda ring

First up, we have this unthinkably charming breakfast nook by Inuti Design. The oyster walls and mix of wood tones allow for a bit of play with the palette so that there’s plenty of color without feeling colorful. The fabric on the bench—a textile by the homeowner Cathy Nordström—is the star, with its mulberry and lilac checkerboard pattern. I love how it tangos with the red-toned wood of the built-in base and also works as a complementary shade to the mint and Kelly green happening in most of the other pieces. Without the fruity hue, sure, it would have been a lovely space, but the weight of it gives the whole space a presence that probably couldn’t be replicated with another color. 

photo, design and styling by dabito

Here’s a fun one: take your hand and cover that mushroom stool in this living room by Dabito for just a moment. Try to envision the room without it. Go on…that’s a nice spot energized by the drama of orange but toned down by the fact that it’s fairly monochrome (and sage green overhead and underfoot). Now, take your hand away. POW! A jolt of the unexpected. It’s easy to think maybe it doesn’t go with the existing color scheme, but it’s actually genius. The mulberry, as an offshoot of the warm earth tones, bridges the gap between the coolness of the mossy green. It exists both in a red space and a blue space that makes shakes the room out of the seriousness going this bold can sometimes create. 

When I first asked Jenni Yolo of I Spy DIY if I could use the photo of her bathroom for this post, she sent me two images and it turned out to be the perfect use case. That first image, with its cream rug and white flowers, is so pretty. It’s calm yet dripping in drama. But the next image, the one with the burgundy rug and the fuchsia blossoms is magic. The subtlety of her palette is more noticeable. Obviously, the lighting is a bit warmer in the second photo, so the walls and shower tile lean a bit greener, but regardless, things come to life with the addition of mulberry-esque details. 

photo by sara ligorria-tramp | design by zachary-jones studio | styling by emily bowser

By now, you may have noticed a throughline. Designers love balancing light greens and poppy oranges with raisin-y mulberry. Here, it makes an appearance in the rug and it’s all the room needs to take a palette of mint and marigold to a whole other level. To my eye, it also does a wonderful job of balancing the golden oak cabinet and the deep walnut or wenge dining chairs. Had the rug just been cream, ochre, red and pink, I’m not sure there would have been enough to steady the vibrant oranges, but Sarah Zachary knew what she was doing. 

photo by haris kenjar | design by heidi caillier

At an initial glance, you might miss the mulberry moment here, but the sleeper hit by Heidi Caillier is pulling its weight without you even realizing it. If you do another “finger over the mulberry to see the difference” exercise, what you have without the sconce is definitely sweet. Timeless. Inviting. But just that touch of an effervescent merlot gives the room some edge. I love how it plays off the traditional wallpaper, and above all, I’m smitten with it in tandem with burlwood. I’m saying it now: mulberry and burlwood together are like a design elixir that can’t go wrong. 

photo by sara ligorria-tramp | design by allison pierce | styling by velinda hellen & erik staalberg

I have loved this image Sara shot for Emily’s second book from the moment I saw it on her computer screen. I’m not much of a tea drinker, but boy would I love an invite over to Allison Pierce’s home for some Earl Grey and a cranberry scone. The design is just cottage-y enough to scratch my itch for English interiors but cleaned up enough to seem livable and uncluttered. But…let’s get back to the matter at hand. 

The truth is, there is no mulberry in this photo, but the way the blue and red of the rug come together tricks my eye into thinking there is. It reads purple in some spots, which frankly, is the secret sauce of the entire design. I’ve tried to avoid repeating my use of the word balance throughout this article, but oh well: balance. If your safe space is blue and wood tones, I hope this room—heck, this whole post—inspires you to add in a touch of something else (::cough:: mulberry ::cough::) to round the whole thing out. 

So, here we are. We’ve reached the end of my love letter to the color mulberry. As I sit and rethink the color palette in my new home, I find myself so drawn to it. There were many other photos I could have shown you to keep proving my point, but I have to imagine you catch my drift by now. The shade of purply red really is the great equalizing. It works in traditional spaces, modern designs, and all the in-betweens. I tend to prefer it used in moderation, just a sprinkle to keep it special, but hey, go all in if you’re so inclined (and please DM me a photo, if you do). I’ll be sure to keep you all posted on how I plan to pivot my existing furniture (plus some new finds) in the new place by shaking up my colors, and if this post is any clue, it’ll certainly include our new friend, mulberry. 

Until next time. XOXO, your friend in design. 

Opener Image Credit: Design by Allison Pierce | Photo by Sara Ligorria-Tramp | Styling by Velinda Hellen & Erik Staalberg

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Lily
10 months ago

I love your posts Arlyn! I’m not sure how I feel about mulberry, but these are beautiful spaces and I always find your writing delightful. Please keep them coming!

Donna
10 months ago

Me: (at the beginning of the article) “Hmm…No way”
Me: (at the end) “Hmm…Now that I think about it, mulberry would be the perfect accent to the mix of vintage walnut and cherry furniture in my sage and cream bedroom! Why have I never thought of this before?”

Erin
10 months ago

When I saw the colours on their own, my immediate response was ‘blech’, but you had me convinced by the end – all the interiors featured are fab!

CC
10 months ago

Well, colour me convinced!

KD
10 months ago
Reply to  CC

me too!

Tiffany
10 months ago

I am now thoroughly convinced that I need some mulberry in my life. Thank you for writing such a thoughtful post with varied examples of how the color is working within each room. Having the eyedropped palates of each room was also so helpful. You talk about design so beautifully and articulately, Arlyn! Very happy that you’re in the regular rotation.

Heather
10 months ago

Wow, the difference in Jenni Yolo’s bathroom. Would have never thought of pops of mulberry for any room, but you’ve inspired me – Thanks Arlyn!

Admin
10 months ago
Reply to  Heather

that one got me, too! its like instant POW

susan
10 months ago

This was well written. Awesome. It’s always been one of my fav colors. Why have I never thought of using it in decor? Love that you shared such a wide range of applications. It really does work everywhere

AK
10 months ago

So intriguing, this. I just surveyed our rooms that I consider “pleasing” visually and every single one has touches of mulberry-ish, mostly in rugs and art. The most dramatic, though, is our verrrry blue bedroom, tons of creamy moulding, cherry furniture, the bed cover is a bold mulberry and gold, so striking and definitely pretty but not feminine. What needs mulberry? The kitchen. Working on it. PS That dining room with the orange/mulberry rug? Swoon.

🥰 Rusty
10 months ago

Oh, Arlyn, lurve your writing and user-friendly visuals!!🤗

I have two friends, both over-painting mulberry-ish feature walls!!!
I dunno about a major dollop of mulberry, but I did have some mulberry cushions at one stage.
I can envisage a vessel, a throw or a lamp base in mulberry. I have a lot of dark stained 1930 wood in my formal areas, so I hafta be a lighter touch on dark colours.
It’s winter here in Australia now, so mulberry is a cosy colour.😊

Rather than mulberry, I’ve recently injected some rust-themed colours via original oil paintings by a well-known local landscape artist.
We have wg8at is known as “Pindan” soil in the mining areas of Western Australia… a rich, variety of reds n rusts and these landscapes are those! I literally collected from outside the artist’s son’s home (inherited from the artist) on a verge collection., moments after he put them there!!! Talk about gettin’ lucky! They’re good – the artist won awards!!! Some have $650-$1200, etc. price tags on the back with a history of the landscape! I now gaveseveral, including a great still life. Lucky, lucky, lucky! 😊

Elaine
10 months ago
Reply to  🥰 Rusty

The red earth in Australia is magical Rusty! It’s 20 years since I visited but I can still remember the overwhelming sense of awe and the enormity of the remoteness I felt…and the red earth. Wonderful inspiration.

🥰 Rusty
10 months ago
Reply to  Elaine

It is!!! Pundan soil.
I once drove through the remote Kimberley region for workover a 2 week period and I literally had to stop the car, get out and stand, in awe, listening to the loud silence and looking at the surreal beauty of the wild landscapes.

🥰 Rusty
10 months ago
Reply to  Elaine

*Pindan

Julie S
10 months ago

This is a favorite color in my personal wardrobe, but it has barely showed up in my decorating choices… until now! You have opened my eyes in a new way today, and I’m glad, as I’ve been feeling a bit predictable in my medium blue/ fern green/ cognac tendencies lately! I think it will be just the ticket 🙂

Meredith
10 months ago

I love this color, but it’s especially apt because my neighbor’s mulberry tree began dropping fruit all over my sidewalk just last night. The color is pretty even on the sidewalk… but not so much tracked in on my rugs. SIGH. Mulberry season in Brooklyn is not as cute as you want it to be.

Elaine
10 months ago

Arlyn, I think you’re my design spirit animal…

I thought it was just coincidence that in the same week you showcased your beautiful former bedroom, I was painting my bedroom muffin magic (Colourtrend 1014, a lot peachier than english scone). But now we’re two for two and in a week where I was inspired to update some decor pieces, here you are confirming that mulberry (albeit more mulberry-red in my case) is the way to go. I’m gob-smacked and tickled pink…or tickled mulberry as the case may be!

🥰 Rusty
10 months ago
Reply to  Elaine

Love your comment

E E Deere
10 months ago

I am sold, 100%. These color palettes are beautiful. I especially liked the breakfast nook, but they are all great.

Alexina Alonso
10 months ago
Reply to  E E Deere

same!

Jen
10 months ago

The mulberry trees I pass each evening on our after-dinner neighborhood stroll are fruiting and we all come home with mulberry stained hands. It IS a lovely color. I like to use it in small doses, primarily in artwork, pillows, etc.
For the last couple years, I’ve been heavily into rust, marigold, terracotta and mulberry plays so nicely with these.

Lauren
10 months ago

Thank you for this helpful post!! I struggle most with how to mix colors and mixing warm and cool tones in a room. I get so confused by design advice out there. I can never figure out how to add a pop of different color in a room but well designed rooms do just that. In my rooms with blue walls or grey I tend to just keep adding more blue or grey in furniture and accessories but this post helps me see they could be so much more. Please do more posts like this showing how to mix unexpected colors!

Kathryn
10 months ago

I 100% love that you included a color palette in here! I would love a post on creating them!

Julie
10 months ago

Love the color and you’re darn right that it’s missing at my house but needs to be there. Next post: links to good accessories, art, decor, etc we can purchase for our homes 🙂

Admin
10 months ago
Reply to  Julie

already ahead of ya! a few of our favorites right here: https://liketk.it/4apUj

Karine
10 months ago

That little Jungalow vase is so perfect to introduce some mulberry into a room! Love it!

Kate
10 months ago

I LOVE the color!

designpo
10 months ago

I believe that red can work with any color scheme, depending on the tone, saturation etc. Mulberry is a shade of red, so this works for me!

Michelle
10 months ago

Oh, I love the mulberry! Wonderful post and I could stare at the pictures all day.

Mariele
10 months ago

Hmm… I like Viva Magenta better, to be honest. But I like bright and happy colors. I was happy to see such a vibrant color be color of the year after so many drab ones!

Maxine Becker
10 months ago

Brillian! im in love and can’t wait to incorporate it into my home. Three cheers for Mulberry

katie
10 months ago

you can not NOT mention Kirsten Dunst’s dreamy kitchen (https://www.architecturaldigest.com/story/step-inside-kirsten-dunsts-charming-ranch-house)! it is a PERFECT execution of this color way… mulberry at it’s very best!

Alexina Alonso
10 months ago

I. LOVE. ALL. OF. THIS. I never knew mulberry was the missing piece in my life 😂 I’m fully on board with this, and SO appreciate it. mulberry forever.

Jennifer
10 months ago

It was so funny – I read this article yesterday before work, and at my 9 AM work zoom both colleagues (one in NJ and one in MA) were wearing this color! I love it and am going to find a way to incorporate in my own house.

Kristin
10 months ago

Anyone have. source on the mint and kelly green rug in the breakfast nook? I love it!

Kj
10 months ago
Reply to  Kristin

Lots of her rugs are ID’d in her house and summer house tours but not that particular one.
https://www.domino.com/design-inspiration/cathy-nordstrom-stockholm-home-tour/
https://www.houseandgarden.co.uk/gallery/swedish-summer-bolt-hole

Sara
10 months ago
Reply to  Kj

I just stumbled on Cathy Nordström in the last 2 weeks and I feverishly searched for sources for her rugs as well! I think her textile business does sometimes offer rugs but when I went to the website there wasn’t much in terms of rugs currently available. (There were some great fabrics though!) Speaking of rugs, this post is right on, Arlyn – we had a vintage flat weave runner rolled up in a closet that was left with us years ago. I’d looked at it and thought, that’s lovely but there is no mulberry in the color palette in my house. We do have navy and some of the other colors in the rug, but it predominantly reads mulberry, and I thought it would add more than I wanted and make the hallway look busy. My husband put it down when I was out and WOW it looks great. Absolutely makes the (small) space. So I think you are onto something here. Really enjoyed the post! Agree with others it’s great to have the color palettes pulled out.

Amanda
10 months ago

this is a great alternative for those of us who prefer not to use reds………. <3

Jamie
10 months ago

I love mulberry, or really any saturated pink and/or purple! We did something similar with our client’s chaises, and they are PERFECT. There’s just something so unexpected about it that makes me smile. 🙂

Katy
10 months ago

Did I just buy myself a pair of mulberry colored sandals because I thought this must apply to outfits too? Yes, yes I did. Thank you for sharing so much beauty!

10 months ago

Love those interiors, but especially the bathroom! I love dark rooms.

Sahaja
10 months ago

I’m late on this one Arlyn, but I always love your writing! Just moved 1000 mi across country and living in a box fort as we slowly unpack, so loving the respite of prettiness this early morning. Thanks for adding the color palettes – you’ve convinced me!! I don’t do a lot of red/ orange in my home other than pops and accents, but found myself really loving these rooms. I just got a olive green sofa, and the rug has greens and cream and pinks in it and now I’m thinking I need some mulberry in my life!
Looking forward to seeing more ideas as you create your new space.

Tammie McIntire
10 months ago

I love seeing what colors are going to be the “it” color of the year. I am currently in the middle of redoing my kitchen and have wanted to paint my kitchen cabinets. I’ve seen that green is trending a lot lately, but is it dying off? I love the idea of bright and warm colors but I’m not sure I could handle it. What’re your recommendations?